January 5, 2011

Thinking About Nonprofit Buzzwords & Priorities

Filed under: Nonprofit — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 1:40 pm

Another decade comes and goes (or did it end in 2009?), and with it, a slew of nonprofit buzzwords.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at Lucy Bernholz’s insightful post on the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade Show How Nonprofits Are Changing.

Lucy is spot on in pointing out the trend of how nonprofits have sought market-based solutions and new funding streams, largely as government and other traditional sources of revenue constricted during the recession.  But as I think back on the previous decade, I feel as though there was a significant shift in from pre-recession buzz to the point we’re at today.

Before the recession, the sector at all levels seemed to be focused on addressing the generation gap and I hope and expect that issue to move back into the forefront of conversation as we continue climbing out of this recession, funding & staffing stabilize, 401k’s bounce back, and more boomers get ready to retire.  Don’t get me wrong, many smart and talented millennial have continued the conversation – see http://nonprofitmillennials.org – but it’s time for the trades, major nonprofit publications, and execs to put “succession planning” “generation gap” “mentoring” “leadership development” back on the forefront of the conversation.

While discussion around nonprofit funding models is nothing new, drastic cuts to state and federal grants and contracts and lower giving from foundations and private donors created new urgency on this issue as we saw the emergence of research, writing, and experimentation around  “innovation” “collaboration” “social enterprise” and many of the buzzwords that Lucy points out.  I sincerely hope that  discussion and action in this area will continue even after dire economic times subside as these have the potential to transform and stabilize the important work of our sector.

Buzzwords may come and go, but I do hope our sector exercises its great ability to multi-task by focusing on these two areas to ensure that nonprofits have the strong leadership and sustainable funding they need to continue serving our communities – as well as continuing to look ahead strategically for the next buzzwords that can strengthen our work.


  1. Thanks for this post. You put your finger on two important issues – first, the whole issue of leadership and second, the ways in which economic winds (and probably political winds and others) can dramatically shift a whole sector’s focus (at least as “measured” by buzz). Thanks for adding to the discussion.


    Comment by Lucy Bernholz — January 5, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    • Hi Lucy – Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my post. It will be interesting to see what outside factors shift the sector’s focus in the next decade and how we step up to make sure we have the leaders we need. Excited about the possibilities!

      Comment by kgilnack — January 5, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

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